There is no number I hate more than 1,200. I am not superstitious nor am I one to think numbers have great meaning. For crying out loud my lacrosse number used to be 13. So why do I hate 1,200 so dang much?!?!
Because for whatever reason this is the number of calories that many people are told to consume in order to lose weight. Heck, many of my clients plug in their information on sites like MyFitnessPal and are told 1,200 calories should be their goal, myself included. I don’t know if you know me but 1,200 calories could be my breakfast, so I take direct offense to this number.
Ok, slightly exaggerating on my breakfast calories (but I’m sure on Saturday’s post workout it is darn close to that number)
I have a special place in my heart for anyone recommending the majority of humans to eat 1,200 calories (yes this is sarcasm). And just as a nice little experiment, I decided to google “1,200 calories” and let me tell you, I almost chucked my computer across the room. The only reason I didn’t? I’m not about to buy a new computer, although for once, this may have completely justified it. The results were endless, frightening and downright sad, just sad.
So what did I find? A whole lot of lies.
I also found that supposedly over 18,000 people google “1,200 calorie diets” monthly, so that made me super excited (not) that I helped with that number. If you are one of those people, please, I beg you, stop.
Many of these “diet” plans promise weight loss and that you won’t starve. It saddens me that people will follow the diet plan in hopes that they too will achieve the success that the models (photoshopped I’m sure) have achieved. I am also continually shocked that people believe hunger (extreme as it may be) is normal when losing weight.
News flash, it’s not normal. It means that your nutrient levels and timing are off, not that you are superior and a weight loss champ, sorry that’s just not the case. True hunger (not boredom, sadness, stress, etc.) is meant to be satiated with food (good food) not starved.
I’m sure you’ve been told not to google your health problems because you’ll find out that you’re dead or perhaps you’re a male who is pregnant. However, we will continue to do this because we are human and we have access to such a convenient source of information.
If you follow what you google (please don’t, unless you googled this article of course) then you will be happy to know that:
Ok, you get the point. However, the fact that you can google what to eat at 1,200 calories and there are people telling you that it’s a good idea AND you won’t be starving blows my mind. Let me get this out loud and clear, you need more than 1,200 calories per day, end of story. (Unless you are a 3-year-old, see below, then please sign up for college because you are genius reading this right now). The best part about googling what this amount of food looks like, is that everyone seems to be saying “this amount of food is ENOUGH” and “look how much food you get!”
Meanwhile, I’m sitting here going “I’d be a hangry monster if I only had that much food to fuel my day.” and a “hard pass” on the low-fat, empty calorie filled day.
Sadness, it looks like sadness.
Let’s take a step back and see what we get for 1,200 calories, besides sadness, 1,200 calories gets you:
Now, this isn’t to say that you won’t go a day in your life without eating less than 1,200 calories, because that happens. You might be sick and not feel like eating, you might be traveling and without access to enough food, you might even be someone who likes to fast for a day, you get the point, this is not who I’m calling out.
This also does not mean that if you happen to undereat once in a while (not on purpose) that you will be malnourished. It is this 1,200 ideal diet fad that can lead to malnourishment. If we try to stay at this calorie level for a prolonged period of time, we will leave our bodies without proper nutrition. Not to mention, say goodbye to normal hormonal health. Nice hair? See ya! Normal sleep? No chance! Sex drive? Goodbye!
That sounds miserable, doesn’t it?
It is. The 1,200 calorie diet is from the era of thinking that eating less will make us lose all the weight. And while sometimes, yes we need to eat less, starving ourselves is not the answer. When you show up with your 1,200 calorie journals hoping to impress me, I’m not impressed, I’m downright sad, worried and disgusted with whoever told you this was okay.
Okay, don’t worry, I’m not crying, you’re crying (if you’re eating 1,200 calories that is). It makes me sad because even though we KNOW that starving ourselves is not the way to long-term success we still (as a culture) do it. We do it because actual weight loss can be hard to achieve especially in the face of stress, disease & genetics. We do it because it makes sense that if we starve we will lose weight. Well, guess what it’s not only not healthy, it’s not sustainable.
We view our health as an end goal, not as a journey. We treat our bodies like garbage and expect them to respond. We hate on our selves when the number on our scale doesn’t match the minimal calories we ate this past week. We want so badly for the answer to be to eat less and workout more.
At some point this holds true, however, there will be a point where more is not better and less is not achievable. So what is one to do? I have one answer:
Eat to FUEL your body, not PUNISH it.
Great question! I know that my short answer up there is not enough (even though I want it to be). So here it goes. The answer is always “it depends”. I cannot give a blanket statement for everyone, only guidelines, but let’s have at it…
Once those are taken into consideration there are many ways to figure out how much you need at rest (this is known as your BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate). This is what you need just to live, breath, sleep, think, blink your eyes (or roll them), maintain body temperature, etc.
For many, this is ALREADY over 1,200 calories believe it or not. This is a number you need and should not try and chance luck and go under just because you think it will help you lose weight faster. Sure, in the short term you may, but in the long run, you will mess with your metabolism, hormones, and relationship with food.
Let me tell you something AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.
Note: if you want successful and sustainable results, an extreme approach is not what you are after. Extreme results require extreme measures and almost always lead to extreme relapse.
Here’s the real kicker. A lot of people who think that 1,200 calories will be the gateway to their new weight loss streak are ALSO working out. Which means that even if by some miracle they got 1,200 or less by the calculation above they are not fueling their exercise and thus, causing their body to be in a panicked state of emotions and fat storage.
If you are eating 1,200 calories AND working out, your body will most likely at some point revolt (if it hasn’t already). The thing is that you most likely need to either 1. eat more and move more OR 2. eat less and move less in order to actually achieve long-term weight loss, but I’ve already typed too much and they said it better here than I could, so I digress.
Ok, let’s all say goodbye to this 1,200 or less calorie diet mentality once and for all. GOOD RIDDANCE.
The next time someone (or some app/online program) tells you to eat 1,200 calories, tell it to kindly go away (more choice words are welcome here). You need more than 1,200 calories (it’s science) and eating less will not make you get to your goals any faster.
Sassy says so.